None of the DUP pre election surveys or canvassing predicted the surprises to emerge in the outcome of the European or local government elections. There was consternation in the DUP camp with the constancy of the Alliance Party vote, the growth in the UKIP vote but the real shock and awe came with TUV leader Jim Allister’s performance.
Peter Robinson realising that some of the blame for the 100,000 plus votes which went walkabout was rubbing off on him, opted to set in train a review of the party’s performance in the elections and to take the temperature inside the DUP. He asked three old hands to carry out ‘the review’ or ‘post mortem’ Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell and William McCrea.
Room 202 in Parliament Buildings was the chosen venue for hearing the confessions of MLAS.
‘The Three Wise Men’ opted to call every Assembly member in turn before them to hear their views. Some chose to put in writing exactly what they thought. Others were cross examined and their opinions noted.
That review has been completed. I am told more than twenty five of the Assembly members who contributed to the review delivered a message proving neuralgic to Mr Robinson’s leadership and the direction of travel of the party. The outcome of the elections, cumulative miscalculations, errors of judgement, bad publicity and leaks from inside the party all surfaced in the course of the review. It is being suggested that there was a ‘Robinson factor’ coming across on some doorsteps with the party leader not welcome in certain areas according to party sources.
The review should not lead anyone to deduce that MLAS want blood on the carpet or that Peter Robinson should meet the same fate as his predecessor Ian Paisley but the message is clear. There is however now specific language in play to realise change at the top. ….one hears talk of ‘a settled transition.’ Isn’t that a nice term? I have not yet established from which Human Resources manual that has been lifted. I am confident there will be a ‘graduated response’ to this term.
While the Robinson review was in hand the fur had been flying with Edwin Poots’s Health missive matching his leader’s letter from America last summer.
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton handed his party’s rivals a stick to beat the DUP in dangling ‘the sword of Damocles’ above Health Minister Edwin Poot’s head over his management of his department. Poots believes his job had been offered to others. On the Nolan Show (Thursday) Sammy Wilson rejected any suggestion that he was offered Health. Poots sounds more mutinous daily. There are reports that he confronted his party leader and left him with a clear message regarding his leadership. Sources say the Robinson/Poots relationship has hit rock bottom.
The DUP have big difficulties looming on the horizon – the Red Sky Report, Jenni Palmer’s outstanding apology, The Iris report, not to talk about the internal party machinations with a mandatory end to dual Assembly/Westminster membership.
Was it this face-off which prompted the Simon Hamilton salvo at Mr Poots in which the Health Minister’s competency was challenged?
Something that struck me about the Health Minister’s performance is his claim of devotion to his task.
But recently on the Nolan show when Jim Allister alleged that Poots had voted in favour of the June monitoring round, when he was offered an extra £20mn, Poots rang in to deny the allegation, and explained that he had been on holiday at the time of the crucial meeting.
Well, if he was, surely that indicates his crucial budget allocation came a poor second to his holiday. Why did he not make a point of altering his holiday to allow his attendance at the meeting?
But then the sceptic in me wonders, in view of the dodgy relationship with the FM, would Robbo have deliberately timed the crunch meeting for when his health minister would be out of the country.
I can’t understand why no political commentators have picked up on Poots’ absence.